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Chevy Corvette Conversions - Body Language

Part 2: We Decipher The Meaning Of A Few More Corvette Conversions

Jay Heath Feb 9, 2010
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Regular Readers of VETTE will sense a theme here. In our previous issue, we highlighted a number of ways to enhance, modify, or rework a Corvette to create a whole new look and level of performance. Well, we aren't done yet. In this second installment, we're following this thread even further, coming across more ways to repurpose America's favorite sports car.

This time, we're including a couple more examples of the legendary Grand Sports that are just coming on the market, both of which are authentic GM-licensed products. Or, if you like to mix old and new, you can "bring it forward" with a modernized version of a '62 Corvette. Finally, if you favor more personalized and high-performance versions of a late-model Corvette, we'll touch on a few examples of those as well.

The point is, you can have a horse of a different color, but with the reassuring knowledge that underneath it all is a full-blooded thoroughbred.

Art's Corvettes
Adding Some Artistic License

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Art Richards of Art's Corvettes started out repairing and restoring Vettes in the early '70s, but has always looked ahead of the curve. His interest in all types of racing, from drag racing to F1, has been an inspiration in his advanced-look designs, which have included FIA-style wide-body Corvettes for street use. Yet it was the debut of the silver car seen above that really created a stir at the SEMA show back in 2004.

According to Art's son Drew, it happened to be located near the GM booth, and the company's head designer came by and began asking all kinds of questions. "He asked us how we got a C6 before they came out," Drew relates. "We chuckled and told him it was a C5. The first time we had seen a finished product of the new C6, our car was already in primer. Before he left he told us both the car was one of the most beautiful designs he had seen, which made all the hard work worth it."

Besides the obvious body mods and hand-built Lambo-style doors, the car-called the California Spyder GTP-also features an array of other upgrades, such as a paddle shifter, an onboard PC, a custom audio/video system, and night-vision side mirrors. The widened fenders are filled by ACS Centerlock wheels (11 and 13 inches wide, front and rear; tires measure 315/25R19 and 335/30R20, respectively).

Taking this design to the next level is the orange coupe version shown below. The intakes on the body have been altered somewhat to create a more distinctive look, and the body and interior include carbon-fiber. Other upgrades range from Wilwood brakes to a custom exhaust, along with Hotchkis suspension mods.

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Out of concern for preventing copycats, the wide-body components are currently only available already mounted on a Corvette. Pricing starts at $27,500 in primer, and numerous upgrades are available, such as coilovers, airbags, rims, interior trim, and custom paint. If a customer doesn't have a Corvette already, the company can purchase one at a wholesale price and pass the savings along.

In addition to the Corvette body conversions shown here, Art's Corvettes has other products and services available for creating custom vehicles, including everything from custom bodies to high-performance applications. Art's son Drew has a diverse background that includes some automotive design training at the famous Art Center in Pasadena, California, plus expertise in Solid Works and hands-on automotive design and fabrication work. Drew's experience allows him to lay out his designs on paper, build the clay and foam models, then create the full carbon-fiber-and-fiberglass bodies. Together, their skills have combined to create not only Corvette body conversions, but also ground-up vehicles using Corvette components. Stay tuned for even more-advanced designs.

Art's Corvettes
(760) 728-2628

Classic Reflection Coachworks
Blasts from the Past

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Looking back with rose-colored glasses, the '62 Corvette marked the end of the first-gen, straight-axle cars. It was one of the most desirable and alluring models of this era, with cleaner lines and more power than its predecessors. Waxing nostalgic about these formative years is all well and good, but let's be realistic. The suspension was crude, and the drum brakes were weak. And while the 327's output was greatly improved, in hindsight the horsepower party was just getting started.

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, though. The '62 model's Route 66 sex appeal still captures frank stares of desire. (Do you ever tire of seeing those old clips of Sophia Loren?) Realizing the enduring appeal of this pinnacle of the C1 period, Doug Graf Classic Reflection Coachworks (CRC) decided to revisit history, improving on the design with modern refinements.

Actually, it was not just a fondness for this vintage Vette, but also a personal connection that prompted the project. As a young man, Graf owned a '61 convertible when he met his wife Carolyn, and they shared many wonderful memories in that car. (Sadly, she recently passed away after some relatively minor surgery, but Doug is soldiering on with various projects.)

Looking back, the genesis of the CRC actually began with a one-off project, a '62 body fitted on a '93 C4 chassis. Initially it wasn't a match made in heaven (the car, not the Grafs). Getting the two eras to marry took six years and more than 5,000 man-hours. Once done, however, the car became a show favorite, winning many awards and admiring looks.

The advent of the larger C5 chassis, along with fortuitous access to Boeing's computerized design technology, opened up a whole new level of production quality and capability. A subcontractor involved in Boeing's skunkworks (now called REALADI) approached Graf about developing the body shape using the latest CAD/CAM software, and made him an offer he couldn't refuse (presumably to showcase the company's engineering capabilities-after all, what better way to attract attention than with a classic Corvette?).

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Working with REALADI'S aerospace technicians, Graf created a smooth, flowing design that's an obvious tribute to the past, but with precise mounting points for attachment to the C5 foundation. The computer software also allowed designers to test-fit the body, checking the motion of doors and other moving parts, in order to align all the parts before the tooling and molds were constructed using a five-axis milling machine. Overall, the CRC body is four inches wider and two inches longer than an original '62 model, and the windshield is obviously slanted more.

Taking the level of technology even further, the body laminate consists of Gurit's SPRINT carbon-fiber composite, using a combination of pre-preg and vacuum-bagging infusion techniques. More recently, CRC has added chromed, carbon-fiber rear bumpers as well, using a process from a customer who owns a plastics company. We've closely inspected several different samples of CRC vehicles, and they all display a high degree of craftsmanship in the bodywork and fitment. Indeed, Graf points to the labor-intensive aspect of the buildup, requiring more than 1,100 hours. So the $70,000 upcharge for this body conversion seems altogether appropriate, especially compared with other customized cars.

Since the car's introduction in 2005, more than 85 units have found their way onto the road, with most customers opting to have CRC find a "donor" Corvette ('98 through '04) with a stock drivetrain. "They're looking for a dependable car," Graf says. "They like it because it's driveable and repairable." That, and also because the CRC is a fresh spin on an old favorite.

Classic Reflection Coachworks
(253) 582-5830

n2a Motors
Auto Exotica

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The Name "Anteros"comes from the Greek god of requited (returned or mutual) love. Well, truth be told, it took a bit of determined interest, if not deliberate romance, to get the Anteros project rolling. It was designed by a family from Southern California, who had become frustrated in dealing with various car customizers. Their heart's desire was finally requited, though, by Gene Langmesser of n2a Motors, who has an extensive, international background in vehicle-engineering design and development. His background includes every step of "art to part," from prototyping to production for companies such as GM, Porsche, and Opel.

After spending a year or so refining the initial concept, Langmesser fitted the revised Anteros shape on a C6 platform, so that it's hardly recognizable as a Corvette, both inside and out. Just as most sports cars are inspired to some degree from earlier designs, this one displays elements of many notable marques, such as Ferrari, Maserati, and Porsche, among others-all to good effect. Both coupe and convertible versions are offered, with a prices ranging from $150,000 to $177,000, not counting special engine packages, such as a Lingenfelter, an SST twin turbo, or a Magnuson supercharger.

Each Anteros takes about three months to build. The process basically consists of detaching the donor Corvette's body panels and installing a new carbon-composite body that's about 200 pounds lighter than the factory shape.

The stock wheels and exhaust are also replaced with n2a's three-piece rims and converter-back upgrade. A choice of several grilles is available: diamond mesh, a minimalist dual-bar horizontal treatment, or a more ornate "egg-crate" intake, suggestive of a 289 Shelby Cobra (which came from a Ferrari-as we already noted, the design influences are many on sports cars).

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The cockpit is thoroughly reworked as well, with freshly contoured seats, dashboard, and side panels all swathed in hand-stitched leather upholstery.

Should the Anteros' lines look too "furrin'" for red-blooded American tastes, n2a lives up to its "No two alike" acronym with something completely different. The 789 (below), also fitted on a C6 but for a lower price tag of $80,000, combines elements of the '57 through '59 Chevrolets in a Frankentude mélange of body parts. You'll either love it or hate it, but you can't help noticing the three model years represented in the overall design.

It starts with the hooded headlights and chrome grille of a '57, a mid-section from a '58 Impala, and the wing-like tailfins of a '59. Go figure-or go drive one, and prepare to get noticed. Indeed, even more 789s are on the road than the Anteros, partly because it's been around longer, and also possibly due to its intriguing combination of American heritage.

In line with that appeal, n2A has another hybrid "design tribute" under development, called the Stinger, tentatively planned for a Spring 2010 roll-out. As implied by its name, the renderings reveal that it will have the flavor of midyear Sting Rays, including the '65 shark gills on the front fenders, the '67 hoodscoop, and a '63 split-window rear end. Now that's a combination Corvette owners can fall in love with!

n2a Motors
(951) 898-2000

Duntov Motor Company Grand Sport
Reviving a Legend

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Any Company with the brass to use Zora Arkus-Duntov's name had better be good. After all, the name Duntov is synonymous with the Grand Sport Corvette, like Moses is with the Ten Commandments. Well, evidently Duntov Motor Company (DMC) is good enough for General Motors, since this Grand Sport reproduction is an officially GM-licensed vehicle. That stamp of authenticity means the DMC Grand Sport qualifies as a "continuation" of the '63 Grand Sport race cars. Indeed, it's been approved for vintage racing at HSR and SVRA events, and is in the process of being recognized by the FIA as a continuation car. In other words, you'd have to climb up Mt. Sinai to get anything closer to the original.

Not only that, DMC has partnered with Superformance for the production of GM-licensed "street rollers" as well. It's basically a completed car, except for the driveline, and can be built to street-legal specs; that is, finally homologated as Duntov originally wished the GS to be.

Heretofore, Superformance has been known for its line of Shelby Cobras (both replicas and others personally authorized by Carroll Shelby), including a Cobra Daytona Coupe reworked by the car's original designer, Pete Brock. Superformance also makes reproductions of the Ford GT40, so it's clearly an outfit that can be judged by the company it keeps.

We spotted DMC's GS race car (shown here) at the 2009 SEMA show, and we're eagerly awaiting the street version from Superformance later this year in anticipation of doing a full feature. In the meantime, we'll focus on the DMC racer.

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It stems from a fitting environment, as DMC is known for restoring and race-prepping vintage competition Corvettes, including some of the most famous ones ever campaigned. This firm's team members have won both World Challenge and SCCA National Championships, and DMC's in-house fabrication shop makes rare or unusual parts (in particular '63 to '82 chassis components) that might otherwise be unobtainable.

A few notable persons have been instrumental in the rebirth of the GS. The late Elfi Duntov, Zora's wife, granted permission to organize DMC under her name. And Delmo Johnson, who owned GS No. 004 and raced it at Sebring in 1964, is a lifelong friend of DMC's honcho Alan Sevadjian, who has been closely involved with Corvettes for more than four decades. (Sevadjian has won four SCCA championships, and both owned and drove a GS from 1965 to 1968.)

DMC built a replica of the GS back in 2005, called the Duntov LightWeight. It differed slightly in shape from the authentic item, mostly in the drooped leading edge of the nose for aerodynamic advantages. For this latest GS repro, though, DMC and Superformance acquired the molds, blueprints, and patterns that were developed during the restoration of Grand Sport No. 002, widely regarded as the most accurate and best-preserved example.

The entry price of the Superformance street GS is $86,000 for a roadster, or $90,000 for a coupe with a steel birdcage. The DMC competition-grade, aluminum-birdcage coupe goes for $190,000. In addition to being less expensive, the Superformance GS has more creature comforts such as air conditioning, electric windows, and power steering and brakes. In contrast, the Duntov is a hand-built, bare-bones race car with a stiffer suspension (though in many states it probably could be licensed for the street if need be).

Just about any Chevy engine can be used, but for historical accuracy, a 377ci aluminum small-block V-8 with Webers is the way to go. Either model could be fitted with a modern LS7 if so desired, and GM has also recently announced a new LS7 E-ROD crate engine. It's actually more than just a crate engine, as it includes all the emissions equipment, so it can be certified smog legal in all 50 states. But it's not strangled in the power output, as it's rated at 505 horses. So now you can be both green and mean in an officially sanctioned Grand Sport.

Duntov Motor Company, LLC
(888) 581-3838

DSV Customs
It's What's Inside That Counts

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While most of the other late-model Corvettes shown here often strive to disguise their origins, DSV Customs looks to embellish them. After all, if you're a Vette owner, why not say it loud and proud?

To pump up the personality of your C6 (or C5) Corvette, DSV offers a wide range of carbon-fiber trim items for the exterior, such as a carbon-fiber diffuser, hood cowl, door handles, and halo at the Targa top. Along with the recent addition of custom paintwork, DSV's mainstay is leather upholstery for the interior. In fact, proprietor Gerardo "Gerry" Astorga offers leather coverings for virtually every single plastic component in the C6 cockpit.

The company started out with the shifter boot on his personal C6 and carefully refitted it with hand-stitched leather. Satisfied with the look, Astorga moved on to making templates for the doors, seats, side panels, and steering wheel. Those templates enable him to produce either leather or carbon-fiber pieces, or a combination of these two materials.

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For the right palette, he put a lot of attention into the color choices to make sure they coordinate with other hues both inside and out. Not all items are in stock, as DSV is a custom tailor shop rather than an off-the-rack store. This level of craftsmanship caught the eye of Vette owner Jay Leno, who had Astorga give the full treatment to one of his many cars.

The most popular item from DSV is the D-shaped steering wheel with a flat bottom, which instantly transforms the look of the interior. Other parts can be ordered on a core-exchange basis, to minimize down-time during installation. Once the customer's factory parts are received by DSV, the initial deposit is refunded. This approach seems to work well, as 90 percent or more of DSV's clients are do-it-yourselfers who want to make the most of their Corvettes all on their own.

(956) 238-4713



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